Cheap Star and Bubble Gum Orchestra

Cheap Star

Cheap Star “Songs For The Farrelly Brothers”

Although Cheap Star started as an offshoot of both Big Star and The Posies (produced by Ken Stringfellow and John Auer) with each release the band has forged its own distinct identity. Guitarist-lead singer Remi Vaissiere as mastered the hushed lead vocal with just enough harmonies to appeal to fans of Nada Surf and Teenage Fanclub.

“Memories” is a great starting track, as it layers the instrumentation and vocals describing a sad passage of time; “all the things you’ll never see again, one by one everyone disappears…” The shimmering rhythm of “Where Do I Live” is another soothing mid-tempo song, and at points that old Posies sound comes through on several tunes “What’s The Point”, “Stay Behind” and “The Other Side.” Without much contrast in the compositions, it can drag at points, but enough here stands out to keep things interesting  like the solid “Disaster” and the catchy closer “Into Your Arms,” with its distorted guitar solo. Another worthy release from this talented group.

Amazon | Kool Kat Musik

Bubble Gum Orchestra

Bubble Gum Orchestra “Sticky Love Songs Vol.1 & Vol.2”

Short of Jeff Lynne, the best shot of hearing Electric Light Orchestra’s iconic sound is left to Michael Hildebrandt’s Bubble Gun Orchestra. “Sticky Love Songs Volume 1 & 2” is a double album that fills your ELO fix and allows BGO to branch out a bit more.

Each new album finds Hildebrandt’s technique improving, “You Called To Tell Me” opens similar to “Eldorado,” but delivers a very original tune with a catchy chorus. The orchestral compositions get more sophisticated across the next several tracks, like “My World Blue.” The sunny “Peppermint Smile” has a terrific jangling middle 8 and “Hard Nights” has a driving dark chorus sandwiched between sunny verses.   With 20 tracks there is sure to be more than a few favorite songs here for the ELO fan.

Buy Direct

Freebies and EP Reviews: The Lunar Laugh, Red Cabin, Kai Danzberg, Melanie Crew and David Myhr

Jared Lekites is back as The Lunar Laugh with a new singe “Work In Progress” and its got great catchy melody. Jared never disappoints, so get this one!

Long island native Jonathan Foster is back with a new Red Cabin EP. “Willow Tree” and “Falling Apart” are solid pop gems. Its a FREE download so add it to your playlist. 

German musician Kai Danzberg has many influences from disco, modern pop to powerpop and “Time Machine” is clearly influenced by ELO. Some hit potential is definitely here, listen also to “You Keep Turning.”

Okay London native Melanie Crew is NOT power pop, but she’s got a calm sweet voice. She’s actually had songs receive airplay on the BBC. If you want to just chill out this is the FREE download for you.

Video Spotlight

David Myhr(The Merrymakers) has a new single “Spellbound” that I promoted on Facebook a few days ago. It’s a very ELO-inspired track that is featured in a Swedish movie “Flykten till Framtiden.” Looking forward to more Myhr! Get it on iTunes

Mimi Betinis and Steve Ison

Mimi Betinis

Mimi Betinis “Music Sounds”

Mimi Betinis (Pezband) makes a long overdue return since 2010’s All That Glitters and the arrangements are more playful, less structured on Music Sounds. “Pontiac” is the most rock oriented single here, asking some important life questions on a road trip. Mimi’s vocals are soft but clear throughout — he just sounds great.

Next “Summer Love ’68” is a descriptive slice-of-life love story that may or may not be fictional, but the strong “Corinna” is a big highlight with a sweeping guitar hook in the driving chorus. From here the album starts to resemble the McCartney solo era on the sweet “Listen to Me” and the jazz-inspired “This Girl.” The charm of Betinis approach works best on the catchy gems “She Wants You” and “Sound The Alarm,” where the sonic experimentation within each hummable melody works best. Overall a highly recommended album, and keep it coming Mimi!

Music Sounds | Amazon

Steve Ison

Steve Ison “The Stars Are Never Really Distant”

Steve Ison is a bedroom pop artist with a solid talent and knows a catchy hook or two on The Stars Are Never Really Distant.This album is a compilation of songs he’s worked on since 2006. “If I Met You Again” slowly opens with Ison’s warm jangling melody, and a bouncy guitar chorus with a big hook. But my favorite here is the jubilant “Golden Pie,” its catchy blues pop of the highest order with some nice harmonies and a toe-tapping rhythm.

“Lou Reed” echoes the music legend in his best Velvet Underground style, with echoing piano and strings. His main influences are all classic 60’s artists. “The Strangest Feeling” and “Girl On The Train” are folk melodies that recall both early Dylan and Buffalo Springfield. As Ison floats from genre to genre he demonstrates skillful musicianship, as “I Know A Good Thing” is very much like Donovan. You may also like his previous release On The Way Up. 

Bandcamp only

TUNS and Teenage Fanclub



TUNS (named after the Technical University of Nova Scotia) is a Canadian indie “supergroup” consisting of Chris Murphy (Sloan), Matt Murphy (Super Friendz, Flashing Lights) and Mike O’Neill (The Inbreds). And TUNS doesn’t lean on any one member to make it special, it combines the strengths and experience of each member to deliver a pure power pop treasure.

Opening with the jangling upbeat melody of “Back Among Friends” where “good times, band times, never gets old.” Next “Mixed Messages” has a jaunty beat and winding lead similar to Squeeze, while the handclaps and thick riffs of “Mind Over Matter” just sink into your brain. The slow, hazy beat on “Look Who’s Back In Town Again” is infectious, just oozing psychedelic reverb.  Each track is a tightly structured gem and this 9 track album deserves a spot on my 2016 top ten list.

Amazon | Kool Kat Musik

Teenage Fanclub

Teenage Fanclub “Here”
As a band evolves and its vision clarifies, you get a good feel of a where its members hearts and minds are at. And what the band feels at this point is pure love and gratitude. “I’m in Love” is the most optimistic song I’ve ever heard from the Teenage Fanclub, a rich uplifting melody and the hushed harmonies on “Thin Air” display their adult wisdom, a perfect example of Adult Oriented Power Pop (AOPP) with the comforting rhythm of electric guitars. The hooks continue on the song “Hold On” where Norman Blake gives his audience advice “Hold on to your life and your dreams.”

All these songs share a theme of enjoying the short moment of time we have left on this planet. From the chiming chorus on“The Darkest Part of The Night” to the guitar buzz on “I Have Nothing More to Say,” it stays on point.  The tempos gradually slow, so by the time we get to “Live in The Moment” a bit of message fatigue sets in. Vocalist Raymond McGinley soothing lead approaches a zen-like calm on “Steady State,” but goes darker on “With You,” where your fear that “life is short and life is long.” It ends on the sobering acoustic chamber pop of “Connected To Life.” Overall a solid, highly recommended album that crosses from joy to “disappear into shadows in the night.”


Tony Low and The Cleaners From Venus

Tony Low

Tony Low “Rendezvousing”

Tony Low, a founding member of New York’s renowned garage-psychedelic pop band The Cheepskates, is back since his Tone-Wah EP from a few years ago. The simple sing along “Should’ve Known” and strummed “The Awful Dream” are good mid-tempo songs, and the well written “Pictures Of Your Son” has nice light fuzz guitar behind the melody. The best tune here is “Hey Now,” a 4 minute fully fleshed out jam that will please fans of late ’60s era bands.

Fans of jangle pop will enjoy the Rickenbacker led “You” and the funny dance number “Do The Mikey.” A few folk-psyche pop numbers aren’t as memorable (“Flicker”) and I felt that Tony’s vocals are a bit too light in the mix overall. But it’s still very good to hear Mr. Low making music.

CD Baby | Kool Kat Musik

The Cleaners From Venus

The Cleaners From Venus “The Last Boy In The Locarno “

The Wild Man of Wivenhoe is back. English songwriter Martin Newell is one of the most prolific post-punk songwriters and he’s been releasing more material than ever before. His memories of the old girl groups is displayed on “The Crystals and Ronettes” with its Phil Spector styled approach. The lite ballad “Gorgeous Day” is a great example of how Martin makes a minimalist masterpiece.

Many of the tracks are reflections on his loves (“Pauline,” “You’re Looking Great”) and life (“English Pier”) all done economically, and similar in style to Ray Davies. The doo-wop nostalgia of “Eight O’ Clock Angel” is faithfully rendered as well as the pub atmosphere in “Victorian Doll.” Newell’s very English point of view fits this stroll down memory lane, and it’s definitely worth your attention.